User Story: Designing a Strategy for Finding Federal Grants

Over the last few weeks, we have begun featuring user scenarios from across the user experience. Click the User Story tag for all the posts in the series.

Susan's scenario: As a staff member in a university’s Office of Sponsored Research, I need to start searching for federal grants and sending opportunity reports to different departments.

Now that Susan is up to speed on the phases of the federal grant lifecycle, she feels better equipped to begin scouring for grant opportunities that hold promise for her organization. To complicate things a bit, Susan’s university is looking for grants across a range of different categories.

So for each grouping of opportunities, she will need to use a different combination of keywords and search parameters. Of course, it would be great to be able to save these different search queries and receive emails when a grant comes up in them.

Let’s look at a three-part strategy Susan has designed for finding opportunities that may help you find the grants you are looking for.

Part 1: Get Comfortable with Search

Susan quickly learns that she can use more than just a handful of keywords to search for funding opportunities. The Search page offers lots of ways to customize a search and narrow results. You can search by:

  • Keyword
  • Opportunity Number
  • CFDA
  • Opportunity Status (Forecasted, Posted, Closed, or Archived)
  • Funding Instrument Type (All, Cooperative Agreement, Grant, Other, Procurement Contract)
  • Eligibility (city or township governments, for profit organizations other than small businesses, Native American tribal governments [Federally recognized], nonprofits, private institutions of higher education, and many more)
  • Category (Agriculture, Arts, Business and Commerce, Education, Energy, Environment, etc.)
  • Government Agency (including specific agencies and sub-agencies)

Search Grants criteria

For example, by looking at funding opportunity announcements for grants relating to “special education”, she compiles a list of related words that could also be used in keyword searches – words like “disability” and “early childhood”. And she further narrows her search by focusing on grants (under the Funding Instrument Type) from only two agencies – the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services.

For each separate grouping, Susan creates a search tip sheet that she can reference and share with her colleagues for feedback.

Part 2: Create Saved Search Notifications for Promising Queries

Early on in the process of developing her search strategies, Susan realizes that she can create saved searches on that alert her to new opportunities matching her saved search parameters.

So for each grouping of opportunities she creates a saved search after logging into her account.

Add Saved Search page

Every day, Susan will receive a single email listing all newly posted opportunities that match her saved queries. If you set up multiple saved searches, these are combined into a single email to reduce inbox clutter.

Upon receiving these daily emails, she reviews the grants and forwards promising opportunities to her colleagues and their respective departments.

Once Susan sets these saved search notifications in motion, she can always make adjustments to the search parameters – for example, if she realizes that the keywords used in one saved search are still too broad.

Part 3: Use Spare Moments to Search for and Subscribe to Grants

Susan has set up herself and the university pretty well for finding new and relevant funding opportunities. But one day on her bus commute home, Susan opens the app on her phone and experiments with some new keyword combinations. app synopsis page

She finds a few opportunities using new keywords, and so she subscribes to these grants and sends the opportunity links to her work email address using the app’s share feature. (She plans to look at them more closely the following morning).

Meanwhile, during her morning commute, Susan can open the app and browse through any nightly push notifications she has received.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Susan’s user story.

4 thoughts on “User Story: Designing a Strategy for Finding Federal Grants

  1. Hi I am leading a local NGO in Guinea called (Action for Development), but I am looking for partners with whom we can work together base on cummunity and woman promotion in rural area. You can reach our organisation by emailing us.


  2. Seeking college grants for male 37 with mental heath disabilities and collecting 750.00 a month disability from the state. I have a GED and have never attended college but would like to gain a degree in a field I can rejoin to work force.


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